A/N: This is part of the CATverse, the timeline of which can be found at catverse. com. This story takes place in arc seven and was written to the sounds of 'Chaos Maker' a fabulous song by Tim Johnson. Check him out at myspace. com/ timjohnson27. He's great. If you haven't added him yet...what's WRONG with you?!

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Silence was one of those rare, precious commodities that Jonathan Crane had only gained a true appreciation for when he was robbed of it. Until his solitude was stolen from him by the three women who had invaded and taken over every aspect of his existence (or so it felt sometimes), he hadn't realized the real value of absolute silence. It taught him to be immensely thankful for the stillness of the night when he was coherent enough to enjoy it.

Tonight was one such night. The Captain, Al and Techie had all gone to bed early--he didn't know why, he didn't particularly care why--and Kitten was tucked securely into bed, sleeping just as soundly. This left him to sit in the common room, stretched out in the wingback chair they had recently acquired, his long legs propped on the shaggy ottoman, with a heavy book in his lap and the lights just bright enough to allow for reading without eyestrain. It felt like he'd stepped back in time to the years before he'd been graced with minions.

Although, back in those days, he probably would have been propped up a bit more awkwardly than comfortably, most likely due to some injury or another that he'd sustained and hadn't bothered to properly treat. He also probably would've been reading on an empty stomach, instead of nibbling a tea sandwich with the crusts taken off and cut on the diagonal. He had to admit, in some ways, his life had gone downhill with henchgirls in it; in others, circumstances had improved substantially.

Regardless, he was determined to enjoy this respite from chaos while he could and he curled a little further back into the softness of the chair, eyes dancing over a few stanzas of Whitman that he already knew by heart.

He turned a page, breathed in the smell of must, dust and that indescribable perfume known only as 'old leather book' and sighed contentedly.

Oh, blessed silence. He wanted to close his eyes and grin at the sheer rapture of it. If only every night were just like this--

A whimper shattered the calm and instantly, Crane's eyes squeezed shut. For a split second, he wanted to pretend he was imagining things, wanted badly to block out the pathetic sound that he heard, and for a moment, he succeeded in doing just that, but then the whimper became a whine and the whine became a wail.

Sometimes life just wasn't fair

He had to get the henchgirls who had chronic nightmares, night terrors and even occasionally sleep walked, didn't he? The powers that be couldn't even let him have peace at night, oh no.

He exhaled noisily and extracted himself from his cozy chair. The sooner he woke her up, the sooner she'd stop whimpering and the sooner he could get back to his book and his blessed silence.

Having dealt with this sort of thing before, he knew just what to expect. As he passed the Captain's bedroom door, listening for her puppy-ish whimpers, he prepared himself for a clingy, desperate hug--because that was the best way to quiet her and get her to return to bed--but the noise wasn't coming from her room. He moved on to Techie's door, fingers flexing around his book just in case he needed to slap her back into reality, but no sound came from behind her door, either.

He eyed Al's door with trepidation. He couldn't remember the last time she'd had a nightmare that wasn't toxin or fever induced, and he hadn't been the one to deal with her either of those times. He was at a loss. Would she try to violently swat at him like Techie did when awakened from a particularly nasty dream? Would she cry and cling?

Jonathan hated to have to find out...but the wails got increasingly louder and since the other henchgirls were not stumbling from their rooms, he had no choice. If he didn't intervene, Al would wake Kitten and then nobody would have any peace.

To his great surprise, her bedroom door was unlocked. Al never left her door unlocked. Never.

The door opened with a prolonged groan that turned into a squeal. The light from the common area filtered in, slashing a path across the lump of blankets on Al's bed. Jonathan took two steps inside and loudly whispered, "Al."

The pile of cloth shifted and let out a piercing cry. "Squishy!"

As though she had a tow rope around his neck, he was at her side in an instant, tugging the suffocating covers off her. She clutched at them, then at him, her hands catching his shirt and refusing to let go, still crying.

"Al, wake up."

"Don't you dare!" she shouted, fists tightening around the fabric of his shirt. "You do it and I'll kill you!"

He grabbed her by the shoulders, pulled her up off the bed into a strange semi-seated position and then shook her. "Al! It's just a dream! Wake up!"

She shuddered and her eyes opened. They were bleary, not fully awake yet. She started struggling against him. "Let me go! I have to save him! Jonathan!"

With a gentleness that went against all his established negative feelings for the woman in his arms, he held her head steady between his palms--part of him wanting to crush her skull for being so damn infuriating and part of him wanting to thrust her away from him as fast as humanly possible--and looked at her.

"I'm here."

She hiccupped and gasped like a fish out of water, eyes streaming and face flushed. "He's not! He can't be! I won't let you take him!"

She still wasn't seeing him.

He tightened his grip just the slightest bit, forcing himself not to wince when he used one shirt sleeve to wipe some of the collected liquids that were streaming down her face.

"Al. I'm here."

He didn't know what possessed him then. What strange magnetic force that caused him to do what he did next.

But it happened so fast he wasn't given enough time to ponder.

He pressed his lips to her forehead swiftly before withdrawing.

She went still as a statue, seeming to finally stop breathing completely. The only indication he had that she hadn't suffered a heart attack was when she blinked.

Al blinked again, this time some clarity coming over her expression as if she saw him for the first time. She looked like some sort of bewildered animal, staring at him with wide, watering eyes.

"Breathe," he muttered, trying not to think about the (wince) kiss he's just pressed to her forehead, thinking that drastic times called for drastic measures. "Breathe."

A huge gasp was his reward, followed by a squeak and her throwing all her weight at him, wrapping her arms around his ribs in a crushing embrace. "Jonathan!"

The leather volume he'd had in hand hit the floor, the pages crushed under the weight of the book's spine, and Al continued to blubber, trying to explain between violent heaving breaths what had sent her into hysterics in her sleep. His hands instinctively stroked her back soothingly, encouraging her breathing to return to normal.

She thought he was dead. She was clinging to him because she thought he was dead.

She was crying because...because...

Infuriating woman.

His sympathy was officially spent. "Get off."

"You don't understand." She hiccupped again. "I couldn't save you. I did everything I…there was no way to…oh, Jonathan!"

She had stopped crying, but her embrace was getting more and more overpowering by the moment. It was making him somewhat claustrophobic. "As your clinging has established, I'm alive and well. Now, release me."

Her voice dropped to a whisper and she buried her face in his chest. "I'm scared…I'm scared I'll let go and you'll vanish."

He sighed heavily. "The odds of that are rather remote."

"It was so real," she continued. "There weren't any pink elephants doing the watusi or anything…it was so linear."

"It was just a dream." He pried her hands from his shirt. "Go back to sleep."

She sniffled a few more times and scrubbed her face with the back of her hand. "Will you still be here when I wake up? I don't mean…here here, but here as in…alive?"

"I'll certainly do my best."

She nodded slowly and flopped back on her pillow, trying to pull her blanket back up. He helped her, feeling absolutely ridiculous, like a mother tucking in her child. Then he leaned down, picked up his book of poetry and started for the door, smoothing out the rumpled pages.

He made it a foot away from the door before Al's voice stopped him.

"Squishy?"

He shut his eyes and didn't turn around. "Yes?"

"Will you get a check up?"

That made him turn. "What?"

"You're not as young as you used to be--"

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm worried…please? Just have someone give you the once over?"

"Al," he said with as much patience as he had left in him, "it was just a dream."

"But still…"

He released another breath. "The next time I'm in Arkham they'll give me a check up. They always do. Now, go back to sleep."

"But--"

"It was just a dream. Keep telling yourself that and you'll be fine." He turned back around and took a step towards the door, only to be stopped by her again.

"Squishy?"

He was getting genuinely irritated now. "You're trying my patience, Al."

"But Squishy…"

"What?"

"You kissed me."

He turned on her slowly, purposefully and their eyes locked. "Just. A. Dream."